U.S. Senate candidate Leah Vukmir on Thursday called for handing the U.S. Department of Education’s responsibilities back to the states, while GOP rival Kevin Nicholson said he would lessen the agency’s influence by curtailing some of its powers.
But the disagreement was an anomaly in a series of policy agreements from the two candidates on issues ranging from Supreme Court nominations to strengthening the military. And it lacked the type of controversy from the candidates’ first debate April 26, when Nicholson and Vukmir sparred over their conservative credentials.
Vukmir argued for getting the federal government out of education as much as possible to return decision making power to the local level and allowing parents to have influence in making choices for their children. She also called for eliminating Common Core.
“We know how to take care of our citizens better than the federal government,” Vukmir said.
But Nicholson determined any hint of eliminating the Dept. of Education outright would be unrealistic.
“Since before I was a Republican, before Lincoln was a Republican, we have been saying we’re going to defund the Department of Education,” Nicholson said. The original Department of Education was created in 1867, according to the agency website, though it was organized as a cabinet-level office in 1980.
Instead, he said a smarter approach would be to undermine the department’s influence by starving it of grantmaking authority and in the process, decreasing its allure among Democrats and allowing more money to flow back to the states.
“It will disincentivize those on the left using the Dept. of Education to try and push their views on people that don’t have any interest in it,” he said.
Vukmir also said she’d take a hard look at the U.S. involvement in issuing federal student loans, suggesting the government should potentially remove itself entirely from the practice. She also underscored the importance of pushing more students into fields like manufacturing that don’t necessarily require a college degree.
She suggested the value Americans to a four-year degree may be misguided, leading young people to take on gargantuan amounts of debt only to enter the workforce with a low salary.
Nicholson didn’t espouse support for pulling the U.S. out of the student loan business, but he did argue that more should be done to compel college students to complete their degrees in fewer than four years and to provide more financial counseling for students about to take on student loan debt.
The two candidates, both with connections to the military, also differed on whether to pull out troops from Syria. Vukmir, whose son serves in the Army, suggested the U.S. should keep its presence there as long as there is threat of the middle eastern nation harboring terrorists.
Nicholson, a former Marine, was noncommittal. He instead outlined his decision making process when deciding whether to go to war, saying he would only commit troops to a conflict if he had the assurance America could win the conflict swiftly, deploying whatever resources necessary.
Neither Nicholson nor Vukmir openly supported the tariffs on aluminum and steel President Trump announced Thursday against the European Union, Canada and Mexico.
Nicholson told reporters he’d like to see a world without tariffs, but argued the U.S. needs to institute measures to prevent countries like China from slapping their own tariffs on American goods.
And Vukmir said she’s taking a wait-and-see approach before she takes a firm stance. She said she wants to ensure tariffs don’t end up threatening Wisconsin industries.